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    Wisconsin Appeals Court Okays New Trial in 25-year-old Murder Case

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    Wisconsin Appeals Court Okays New Trial in 25-year-old Murder Case

    By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin

    Wisconsin Appeals Court Okays New Trial in 
25-year-old Murder Case July 25, 2012 – Today, a state appeals court upheld a circuit court’s decision to grant a new trial to Terry Vollbrecht, accused and convicted for a gruesome murder that occurred in 1987.

    The state used circumstantial evidence to convict Vollbrecht of raping and killing Angela Hackl, who was found dead in a wooded area of Sauk City. Hackl’s nude body was hanging from a tree by tire chains, with three gun shots in her back. Vollbrecht told police he was with Hackl that night, and had consensual sex with her in a car, but maintained his innocence.

    No witness or evidence directly linked Vollbrecht to the murder. In 2009, after other appeals failed, Vollbrecht filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, and alleged the state violated a duty to disclose exculpatory evidence.

    Specifically, Vollbrecht says there is evidence that another man committed the murder, and the evidence was not available at his trial. Indeed, a man named Kim Brown committed a similar murder in a neighboring county six months before the Hackl murder.

    Brown confessed and was serving time for killing Linda Nachreiner, who was found in a wooded area chained to a tree and shot in the back. Law enforcement erroneously told Vollbrecht’s defense team Brown was working the night of Hackl’s murder. Thus, the defense team abandoned attempts to link Brown to the crime. In fact, Brown was not working that night.

    After conducting post-trial discovery, Vollbrecht’s defense team argued that it had new evidence implicating Brown, including but not limited to guns and torture books found at Brown’s residence and testimony from Brown’s fellow prison inmates that Brown confessed to Hackl’s murder.

    Vollbrecht, who is serving a life sentence, requested a new trial under Wis. Stat. section 805.15(1), which allows a party to seek a new trial in the interests of justice if newly discovered evidence exists. The Sauk County Circuit Court granted the motion, and the state appealed.

    In State v. Vollbrecht, 2011AP425 (July 25, 2012), the District II Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Vollbrecht met the elements required to get a new trial for newly discovered evidence. That is, the evidence was discovered post-conviction, Vollbrecht was not negligent is discovering it, and the evidence is material and not merely cumulative.

    “Having reviewed the record and deferring to the postconviction court’s extensive findings of fact, we independently conclude that there is a reasonable probability that a jury, looking at both the old evidence and the new evidence, would have reasonable doubt as to Volbrecht’s guilt,” wrote Judge Neubauer for the three-judge panel, which remanded for a new trial.